Subscription Businesses- 2020 Experience and Lessons for 2021

2020 was a tough year. Not just for you and me, but the entire world. Covid-19 brought almost all businesses to a standstill. One of the few functional areas during these difficult times was online content.

Whether it was to know what’s happening around the world on a daily basis, or to escape the news and get lost in the world of fiction, or to deep dive into history and learn how we got to this point today, everyone was subscribing to some online content platform, in the form of video, audio, and the written word.

But how was the pandemic for the subscription business provider?

Subscription Businesses- 2020 Experience

Let’s take a look at some of the experiences subscription businesses had in 2020.


While sales across the S&P 500 companies continued to contract, subscription businesses grew at a rate of 12%. In the UK, four out of five companies continued to grow despite the pandemic.

Growth in Subscription Services Other Than OTT and Written Content

If you think that OTT or written content were the only sectors that grew, think again. With gyms shut, fitness platforms saw a huge rise in the number of subscribers as people who had ample time at home resorted to home workouts. At the same time, subscription-based food delivery witnessed an increase in subscriptions as people had more time to focus on their health and became weight conscious.

Not All Subscription Based Companies Grew

Since sports events were suspended due to Covid, fans unsubscribed or did not renew their subscriptions to sports-based subscription services due to the lack of new content, either to broadcast or to report.

Inability To Deliver On Sustainability

 As the number of subscriptions increased, businesses had to scale up in a short span. In the process, there were unseen costs impacting the environment, such as excess packaging and landfill. There was also insufficient planning, resulting in plastic waste.

subscription businesses 2020 experiences

Lessons For 2021

In order to avoid making the same mistakes again, here are some lessons for 2021.

No Compromise On User Experience

The switching cost of subscription services is low. There are many competitors in almost every area offering subscriptions. It is important to focus on user experience and bring in more subscribers, gaining a competitive edge over your competitors.

Collect As Much Data As Possible

Why do you need data about your subscribers and their behavior? To analyze and implement newer features customized just for them, raising the bar pretty high. With personalized recommendations, users will think twice before moving to another platform. Leverage your recurring billing platform also to analyze customers’ payment patterns and preferences.

Customer Retention Is Vital

How would you like to lose your subscribers to other platforms for whatever reason? Without customer retention, every business is doomed, as you lose out on your recurring revenue with every customer who decides to leave your platform. Existing customers are more likely to buy your other product offerings by up to 70%.

Beware Of Frauds

With an increase in the number of online transactions, the number of fraudulent transactions has also increased. Cyberattacks are commonly reported, and once a customer faces fraud and feels cheated on your platform, he is not likely to return ever. And with bad word-of-mouth publicity, you may lose out on other subscribers as well. Make sure your subscription billing software is secure.

Opt For Geo-Specific Subscriptions

This strategy hasn’t been widely adopted but could prove to be very effective. Not everyone is interested in all kinds of content, especially regional content. With geo-specific subscriptions, you can focus on local needs and provide your services accordingly, increasing in more significant revenues.

lessons for 2021

In Conclusion

Subscriptions have been in existence forever. They have now mostly moved online and were previously offline. It is more important now than ever to keep the subscribers happy and constantly innovate, as you have to please them virtually and don’t have a chance at a one-on-one interaction.


  • Ajay Jain

    Ajay is the Director - Business Development at Magnaquest. He is looking at various domains including strategy, go-to-market, core marketing and product marketing. Ajay comes with a rich and varied experience of the semiconductor industry, education and startup consulting. He has an experience of over 16 years in both corporates and growth-stage startups. He has double Masters – MS from University of Arizona and MBA from Indian School of Business.